This 2015 report by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF), in collaboration with the Baltimore Food Policy Initiative, found that one in four of the city’s residents live in so-called food deserts with limited access to healthy foods. Neighborhoods with food deserts have higher rates of diseases linked to unhealthy diets, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Overall mortality rates are also higher in these areas. While not the only factor impacting these outcomes, food deserts can be a significant contributor, the researchers say.
The report found that 34 percent of African Americans live in food deserts, compared to only eight percent of white residents. Children are also disproportionately affected, with 30 percent of Baltimore City’s school-aged children living in food deserts.
The report defines a food desert in Baltimore City as an area where residents must travel more than one-quarter of a mile to reach a supermarket; the median household income is at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level; over 30 percent of households lack access to a vehicle; and the supply of healthy food is low. The report will be used by researchers at the CLF and Baltimore City officials as a roadmap to guide ongoing policy and programs to improve economic development, city planning and health department strategies along with continued CLF research on healthy food access in Baltimore City.